The regular cycle of the Pope’s work is addressing those groups that advise him on a variety of subjects like theology, law, science, politics, life issues, etc. Benedict’s address to Professor Mary
Ann Glendon, President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, talks about the theme of “Universal
Rights in a World of Diversity: the Case of Religious Freedom.” He reminds not only the head of this academy about the deep roots of Western culture being Christian, but it was Christianity that gave humanity the awareness of the various freedoms we know and love, that contribute to human flourishing and many time even take for granted. It was the Christian gospel that upheld and promoted the dignity of the human person, protected women and children, that organized labor freedom of worship, and other social systems. Most notably, the Pope reminds us, that the freedoms spoken of in
the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human
Rights have their roots in our belief and life in Christ. However, we can’t become smug –too satisfied– with what we’ve been given, even freedom. The Pope’s talk is not long but here are some germaine points for us to consider:

Deeply inscribed
in our human nature are a yearning for truth and meaning and an openness to the
transcendent; we are prompted by our nature to pursue questions of the greatest
importance to our existence. Many centuries ago, Tertullian coined the term libertas
(cf. Apologeticum, 24:6). He emphasized that God must be worshipped
, and that it is in the nature of religion not to admit coercion, “nec
religionis est cogere religionem” (Ad Scapulam, 2:2). Since man enjoys the
capacity for a free personal choice in truth, and since God expects of man a
free response to his call, the right to religious freedom should be viewed as
innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person, in keeping with the
innate openness of the human heart to God. In fact, authentic freedom of
religion will permit
the human person to attain fulfilment and will thus
contribute to the common good of society

Aware of the developments in culture and society, the Second Vatican Council proposed a renewed anthropological foundation to religious freedom. The Council Fathers stated that all people are “impelled by nature and also bound by our moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth” (Dignitatis Humanae, 2). The truth sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32), and it is this same truth that must be sought and assumed freely. The Council was careful to clarify that this freedom is a right which each person enjoys naturally and which therefore ought also to be protected and fostered by civil law.

Of course, every state has a sovereign right to promulgate its own legislation and will express different attitudes to religion in law. So it is that there are some states which allow broad religious freedom in our understanding of the term, while others restrict it for a variety of reasons, including mistrust for religion itself. The Holy See continues to appeal for the recognition of the fundamental human right to religious freedom on the part of all states, and calls on them to respect, and if need be protect, religious minorities who, though bound by a different faith from the majority around them, aspire to live with their fellow citizens peacefully and to participate fully in the civil and political life of the nation, to the benefit of all.